Meals were provided at Onteora in a number of ways. In general, troops would prepare one meal (usually breakfast) from scratch in their campsite, eat one in the dining hall, and have the third one delivered to the campsite in metal cans called "heater stacks". Some hard troops cooked all three meals in the campsite, a program known as the "Patrol Method" or "Buckskin Camp".
Those on the more traditional program would alternate between the dining hall and heater stacks, with lunch one day coming in heater stacks and dinner at the dining hall, then the reverse the next day. If you were off on a day's hike you might have dinner in the dining hall, box lunches prepared by the kitchen staff and then cook your won dinner back in the campsite. All-in-all, the meal program at Onteora was very flexible - and the food was quite good. Click here for an example of the camp menu.
Heater stacks were large metal canisters, which in turn held three metal containers. Each course of a meal was placed inside one of these containers, including the camp's infamous "bug juice", a Kool Aid type concoction. The heater stacks were hauled around the camp in a variety of wagons, usually pulled by a tractor, and stops were made at each campsite. Scouts would be picked to haul the heater stacks up from the road, which was a daunting chore for younger Scouts, given Onteora's rocky hillsides. Each Scout would use their own messkit, and when the meal was over, the heater stacks were dragged back down to the road for collection.
I guess the heater stacks were new once, and probably well sealed then, but time sure took its toll on the metal cans very quickly. It was rare to find one that closed tightly, so meals for those at the end of the loop were not always the warmest of experiences. I also remember that Scouts would sometimes mix some awful combinations of left over food and local vegatation back into the cans, something which I'm sure the kitchen crews really appreciated.
Below is a 1972 flyer about the heater stack program. Mix up some bug juice and wait for the tractor to honk its horn as you read it!
TRIBES CAMP HEATER STACKS
Heater Stacks will be delivered between 5:30 and 6:15 for supper and between 12:00 and 12:45 for lunch daily.
Stacks are delivered to campsites in the following order. Please judge the time of delivery accordingly:
Special Heater Stack - Program Meals are set up for Tuesday of each week. The following will be delivered for preparation in the campsite: